For all you DIYers out there who have ever contemplated selling elaborate Star Wars outfits to friends impressed by your skills: Don’t even think about it in the United States, but if you’re in the United Kingdom, you’re probably in the clear.
The U.K. Supreme Court on Wednesday decided that the maker of the original Star Wars stormtrooper helmets did not infringe upon filmmaker George Lucas’ copyright on the helmet when he made and sold replicas of the helmets.
British engineer Andrew Ainsworth helped to design and make the original stormtrooper helmets back in 1977 when Star Wars was released. In 2002, when he was “struggling to pay school fees,” he got out his molds and sold a helmet and other items at the auction house Christie’s for 60,000 pounds (nearly $100,000), according to the BBC.
Lucas and his empire Lucasfilm launched a lawsuit against Ainsworth in 2004 in California, where he won the case.
But Ainsworth doesn’t have any assets in the United States, so the case moved to the U.K., where the judges focused on design rights and decided that the helmets were just utilitarian props, and not sculptures protected by copyright, which lasts for the lifetime of the copyright owner plus 70 years.
The legal battle has been fought ever since in the British legal system, up until Wednesday, when the U.K. Supreme Court finally issued a ruling upholding an appellate court decision in favor of Ainsworth.
Responding to the judgement, a spokeswomen for Lucasfilm told the BBC that the U.K. shouldn’t let itself become a “safe haven for piracy.”
Thayne Forbes, a managing director at the brand-valuation company Intangible Business, told Bloomberg that Lucasfilm was trying to protect the “upmarket fantasy experience,” and that the company probably didn’t want the stormtrooper helmets and armor “to be found in cheap plastic toy territory.”
Even without Ainsworth’s craftsmanship, it’s probably way too late on that front.
For Star Wars fans, the BBC has a great video with Ainsworth demonstrating how he makes the helmets.